The offseason is upon us, and with it comes all the intricacies of recruiting, spring training and program evolution. At Texas A&M, the stakes will be as high as ever, as the Aggies struggle to maintain commitments from top-tier prospects while planning ahead for the 2014 season, one without superstar quarterback Johnny Manziel.
A strong performance in the offseason, though, seeds the program well for a comeback in 2014. As such, Bleacher Report lays out the ideal blueprint for A&M as Feb. 5 and national signing day approach.
Following recent additions of first- and 11th-ranked wide receivers Speedy Noil and Frank Iheanacho, respectively, Texas A&M has surged in the 2014 class rankings, currently sitting at third overall behind SEC West rival Alabama and perennial powerhouse Ohio State, per 247sports.com.
However, as last season's national signing day proved, commitments and cumulative class scores can change in a heartbeat, meaning A&M's current Top 5 position could falter at any moment. Head coach Kevin Sumlin needs to task his staff with securing the athletes on board while landing a "big-name" prospect on or near signing day, so as to create a splash entering the offseason.
Maintaining the No. 2 slot nationally will be key for selling regional control of the state, especially after A&M's former rival, Texas, consistently racked up Top 10 classes under Mack Brown over the past decade.
Major storylines entering next season: How will Texas A&M survive without Johnny Manziel? What quarterback could possibly replace Johnny Manziel? What will the Aggies do without Johnny Manziel?
It's all worthless garbage. Johnny Manziel is gone—out the door and NFL-bound—and the former Aggie superstar won't be taking a second glance back at College Station. As expected, Manziel cut ties with his last two years of NCAA eligibility, effectively ending his on-the-field relationship with Texas A&M.
And like with any dead relationship, A&M must move on. Manziel will not be under center in maroon and white next season, and there's no doubt Kevin Sumlin, his staff and the remainder of the team has prepared for that very inevitability.
A smooth transition into the next starting quarterback, whether it be sophomore Kenny Hill or incoming freshman Kyle Allen, is essential for the program to continue progressing at its current rate.
Entering spring training, Texas A&M will own two quarterbacks capable of living up to the unenviable task of replacing Johnny Manziel—sophomore Kenny Hill and incoming freshman Kyle Allen.
Hill, who acted as a backup last season taking limited snaps in blowout victories, stands as the current favorite due to his familiarity with the offense and its personnel. The 6'1", 215-pound dual-threat quarterback has multiple similarities to Manziel, including his mobility and accurate arm, but restricted opportunities under center during the season didn't provide a solid glance at his full arsenal of abilities.
Oppositely, Allen enters A&M as an early enrollee and hopes to immediately compete for Manziel's vacancy, sporting a pro-style, rather than dual-threat, approach at the position. A 5-star prospect and currently the top-ranked quarterback nationally in the 2014 recruiting class, Allen offers a young alternative with a strong, accurate arm and notable athleticism.
The contest for Manziel's position will be fierce, but the battle through spring training and into fall camp will add a healthy competition for the program that was without any doubts last offseason at the position.
If there remains a single positive of Manziel's absence this offseason, it will be the lack of negative attention centered on College Station and Texas A&M's program. Due heavily in part to the quarterback's off-the-field shenanigans, Manziel brought about a multitude of criticism—undue or not—and the Aggies certainly need a break from the negative attention.
An important part of this movement away from negative attention, however, will be the addition of a positive force during the offseason. Falling away into obscurity should not be A&M's goal, so, therefore, a strong offseason storyline through either recruiting or another facet should be a priority for the program.